Kellie Cathey, LSW
Why It’s Important to Lower Your Parenting Perfection Bar During COVID19—and How to Do It
Most sessions I spend with parents, our main topics of discussion are around growing into becoming the best parent possible. In the last five weeks my conversations with parents have been much different. We
have switched our conversations from “how we grow as parents?” to “how do we survive as parents?”.
How do we juggle all the demands on our plate?
How do we stop the power struggle well everyone feels out of control?
How do we not feel guilty for all the things we are not doing when our children are on the tablets being occupied?
These last five weeks have presented challenges for us all. But most of us can agree that parents, especially parents with young children, have an insurmountable amount on their plate right now. Parents truly cannot do what they are expected to do during this pandemic.
And all the reactions and thoughts and feelings that you are having as a parent are so incredibly normal. The overwhelm your feeling is because what you are being asked to do is impossible.
The biggest thing I've been advising parents to do is to lower your parenting perfection bar. When your internal resources are so low as parents, it is nearly impossible to show up as the best parent you can be. All you can truly do is lean into the experiences you are having as a human and show up for your child in the best way you know how right now.
One of the most tender things we can do for ourselves as humans is have the strength to hold the tension of two opposite experiences. Leaning into your feeling of overwhelm, while showing your child that you are okay despite your feelings models to your children that we as humans can be distressed and be okay.
Leaning into your feelings and reactions while also showing up for your children models to them that you can be there for them despite being overwhelmed.
Modeling this will help your children grow to learn that hard things happen, and I am okay.
Here are a few ways to help lower your parenting perfection bar.
1. Keep Perspective
Although the last five weeks have probably felt like an eternity for most of us, this is a small blip in your child's very long life. Most of the parenting decisions you make during this time aren't going to drastically impact your child's overall life. The decisions you're making around your child's school work, are not going to be reflected on their on their college transcripts.
Allowing your child to have more tablet time (or a lot more tablet time), breaking up sibling fights left less often or cleaning up after their mess because it's easier--isn't going to stunt their emotional growth so significantly that they won't recover. As long as your children's basic needs for attachment and connection are being met and there is no significant psychological abuse or neglect, your child's internal emotional resilience will recover from this experience. Letting things go in a big way is okay right now.
Prioritizing your relationship with your child is most important. Maybe that means you spend a little bit more time watching the tablet together or maybe that means movie night is on Friday Saturday and Sunday now. However you can keep perspective on what's most important, while also knowing how much you can handle right now is the perfect balance.
2. Lean Into Each Day as New
Each day is going to feel different and need different things depending upon the resources that you have available internally. Some days might be particularly hard for you so those days you use more tablet time or TV. Other days might be better so you can create some activities or go outside for a walk in play for a little.
Lean into each day and ask yourself, “what's possible today?” This might change based on how much work you have to do or how many conference calls you have or if your partner is available to help. It might also just depend on your own mental health and how much you can handle emotionally. Being honest with yourself will help you take care of yourself in the process.
Communicating what's possible for the day to your children will help them know what to expect for the day. If they feel disappointed by not being able to go for the walk or want more tablet time because they don't want to go for the walk, validate their feelings of disappointment and thank them for their understanding and flexability.
3. Sharing Your Feelings with Your Children
Sharing your feelings with your children (while also making them not responsible to take care of you) will show your children that you have feelings too. This models your humanness, your ability to take responsibility for your feelings, your ability to care for yourself during hard times AND teaches your children to give to you when you need something.
Saying phrases such as,
“Mommy's feeling frustrated with work so I'm going to take a deep breath and a quick walk around the house and then I can build Legos with you.”
“Sometimes daddy has hard days and needs a little more alone time. That doesn't mean anything about you. I still love you very much even on my hard days. And when I'm done resting we can play your favorite game.”
“That loud noise is hurting mommy's ears right now. Could you try that in another room or on the front porch? I can admire you more when it's not as close to my ears.”
“I'm feeling a little overwhelmed today . Could you start and put your shoes on and I will come over when I'm ready?”
Using phrases like these help model your humanness to your child while also giving them the space to take care of themselves while you're having your feelings.
This pandemic, you're overwhelmed as a parent and your child's reaction isn't going to last forever. this might be your most trying time ever as a parent, and at the same time it will pass. Keeping grounded in what you know best and reassuring your child they are loved and secure despite the messiness that is happening is exactly what they need most.
You are enough. You are doing enough. You are loved indefinitely by your children.